The Tennessee legislature was extremely active in the spring of 2021, and as of July 1, 2021, 32 new laws are now in effect, many of them related to education. We outline many of them here.
Of course, the hottest button is the ban on critical race theory (CRT) being slated to be taught in other public schools across the country. Regarding the politically controversial CRT ban in Tennessee, in talking with news’ reporters last May, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said, “We need to make sure that our kids recognize that this country is moving toward a more perfect union, that we should teach the exceptionalism of our nation and how people can live together and work together to make a greater nation, and to not teach things that inherently divide or pit either Americans against Americans or people groups against people groups.”
WHAT THE BAN ON CRT MEANS FOR THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR
• Teachers cannot instruct that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously.”
• “Impartial discussion of controversial aspects of history” is still permitted under the law, and limits on teacher speech won’t apply when a teacher is responding to a student’s question or referring to a historic figure or group.
• The state education commissioner can withhold funds from any school found to be in violation of the law.
More Laws Now In Effect:
COMMON CORE GONE FOR GOOD
• A bill that prohibits the use of textbooks and materials created to align with Common Core standards. Schools in violation of the new law can lose funding.
TEXTBOOK TRANSPARENCY ACT
• This act ensures that all textbooks used by Tennessee students are accessible online for public view. The new statute requires that textbook publishers make the materials available as long as they are actively being used in the classroom.
THREAT OF MASS VIOLENCE
• Any communicating of a threat to commit an act of violence on school property or at a school-related activity is now a Class A misdemeanor offense and a Class B misdemeanor if a person with knowledge fails to report it. In Tennessee, Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,500 or both.
TENNESSEE LEARNING LOSS REMEDIATION AND STUDENT ACCELERATION
• This legislation strengthens Tennessee’s third grade reading retention policy by ensuring that students are on grade-level before being promoted to the fourth grade.
TENNESSEE ACCOMMODATIONS FOR ALL CHILDREN ACT
• The act requires public schools to try and provide a “reasonable accommodation” to a student who has conveyed in writing that they are unwilling or unable to use multi-occupancy restrooms or changing facilities designated for the person’s sex. It bars letting transgender people use multi-person facilities that don’t align with their sex at birth.
SAFE STARS ACT
• A collaboration between the Tennessee Department of Health and the Program for Injury Prevention in Youth Sports at The Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, this law creates standards and metrics for student athlete safety. It is one of the most comprehensive health and safety programs in the United States for K-12 athletics.
• The new law extends aid to homeschool students who both complete six credit hours of dual-enrollment and maintain at least a 3.0 GPA in those courses. Under the previous law, homeschool students could not qualify through their GPA score, unlike public and private school counterparts.
To See the Full List of News Laws Now Enacted, Go HERE.
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